Saturday, March 19, 2016

State park trail heads to historic cemetery

Map for Thomson Trail, courtesy of Minnesota DNR.

Jay Cooke State Park's
Thomson Trail runs
2.7-miles round trip

Day hikers can head alongside a scenic river to a pioneer cemetery at Minnesota’s Jay Cooke State Park.

The 2.7-mile round trip Thomson Trail rambles part of the way alongside the St. Louis River south of Duluth.

Baby Ottos' gravestone at Thomson
Pioneer Cemetery.
To reach the trailhead, from Interstate 35 take Minn. Hwy. 210 to the River Inn Visitor Center parking lot. Try to find a space close to the park headquarters. At the HQ, follow the footpath running southeast then turn right/southwest onto the trail heading to the amphitheater. This technically is not the Thomson Trail but a river route that leads to it.

In short order, you’ll pass the amphitheater on the right/north.

Of much greater interest, though, are the views to the left/south. Through the breaks in the tress, you’ll be able to see the St. Louis River as it rushes over cascades and dark-colored greywacke, 1.9-billion year-old sand that has compacted into rock. The river grows quieter as heading upstream.

At junction 9, the trail veers north away from the river as it crosses Hwy. 210. Be sure to look both ways and hold hands of any children with you, as the road can be busy.

You’ll reach the Thomson Trail proper at junction 7. The CCC Trail heads right/east with the other two trails the ends of the loops for the Thomson Trail. Go straight/northwest, taking the loop’s top half.

At junction 8, you’ll arrive at the loop’s west end. Go right/west.

You’ll soon come to a junction with a trail that heads northwest. The equestrian trail can be hiked but stays close to the highway on its way to the Willard Munger State Trail. Continue straight/south.

The trail next arrives at the Thomson Pioneer Cemetery, an open area. Its scattered gravestones are weather-beaten and some fallen; a few of the inscriptions can be made out, though. Pioneers from the nearby village of Thomson were buried here in the 1880-1890s.

After taking in the sights, turn back. This time at junction 8, however, go right/southeast onto the bottom segment of Thomson Trail loop.

At junction 7, when you come to east end of loop; turn right/south. From there, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Learn about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.